Written by Diptarko Paul (Weloquent)
In my municipality school, many of my friends who came from affluent economic backgrounds refused to sit or mix with those who did not carry a bag as fancy as theirs. I, on the other hand, remember myself sharing my tiffin with all, especially with the latter who brought delicious home cooked meals. To be honest, as a ten-year-old I had my eyes on the spicy plain dosa and cared little about which brand of watch my friend wore.
Hence, when I attended my first day of college, I was happy to find that the youth leadership was preaching tolerance and inclusion amongst all the students. However, it was only when one of my dearest friends in the college decided to stand for student council, that I realized the fallacy of the system: they did not practice what they preached. Since she hailed from a tribal background, she was shunned to the sidelines while a prominent face from an upscale family was acknowledged to be at the frontier even though she wasn’t as hardworking or deserving. The mental distress my friend experienced simply because of her background left her a helpless, hurt and an immensely under confident individual.
Understanding the dual aspects of both diversity and inclusion is vital to help a person feel welcomed and comfortable in any room. When we say diversity, we mean the unique traits and characteristics that contribute to a versatile society, whereas inclusion can be defined as the process of ensuring that everybody despite their differences are treated as equals with regard to provision of respect and opportunities. As Malcom Forbes puts it - “diversity: the art of thinking independently together.”
The following are some factors that make it increasingly important for us to embrace diversity and practice inclusion in our classrooms/ workspaces, and with our classmates/ colleagues starting today:-
The Age of Globalisation
The term “global village” is quickly becoming a widely used term signifying a world that is becoming “smaller” through increased connectivity across countries, cultures and languages.
The extent of globalisation may have risen due to colonisation, but its results have depicted how identical people from different parts of the world in their reactions and manners.
To make children future-ready, we must encourage shuffling classes and seats within a certain grade - so that students are forced to make a new set of friends and don’t stick with their former groups. Assigning team projects where members are selected randomly will also give students an excuse to mingle with everybody in the classroom.
The Context of India
India hosts hundreds of different cultures, ethnicities and religions. Here people have very different food habits, religious views, mythologies and festivities - all critical factors of their daily lifestyle. To be a respectful citizen of this very vibrant nation, we must be tolerant and accepting of diversity.
Updating ourselves regularly with the news and shifts in society like the Black Lives Matter movement, Dalit movemnet, the infamous Mulakkaram Tax and the global feminist movement - will help us realize the horrors of discrimination and hence prevent us from falling trap to the same.
The Uniting Spirit of Humanity
For most people, the ultimate goal is to not only succeed in her or his personal life, but also contribute positively and belong to a flourishing society. Understanding diversity and internalising inclusion is the best way to do so. To give voice to the marginalised and the oppressed is the future of a better world.
Being tolerant is not a burden! We’re all breathing, dreaming and working individuals under our external differences - and hence equality should be a natural phenomenon.
Inclusion begins at home - by treating our house help and those who serve us with equal regard, and by offering to educate their children and inform them of the strength and power that comes with unity!